Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 6, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 5 June 2017

Bear fails to conquer Crane

Ball One – Mason Crane in form as Hampshire tower above toothless Bears

Ask the batsman dropped on 0 who makes a ton how to succeed in cricket and he or she will tell you that it’s not how many breaks you get that matters, it’s what you do with them. Many county cricket fans were less than pleased to see Hampshire restored to Division One having finished 2016 in one of the relegation slots (see Ball Six below), but a second win in a row has seen them sit atop the table like a fat cuckoo. Captain George Bailey may have scored just 2 off his own bat, but veterans Jimmy Adams (166) and Sean Ervine (203) – that’s runs not ages – amassed 367 for the fourth wicket and, once Number 9 Keith Barker, the only partner centurion Jonathan Trott could find in the first innings, was dismissed for 63, Warwickshire’s fragile confidence collapsed and they were seen off by an innings, having followed on. Leg spinner, Mason Crane, did absolutely nothing to dampen down enthusiasm for advancing his burgeoning talent with match figures of 57-17-154-5, while Ian Bell’s team languish rock bottom, winless and looking for that break to get their season started.

Ball Two – Ben Coad in electrifying form as he raises hell for Tykes

Yorkshire leapfrogged Lancashire into fourth place with a three day demolition of the old enemy in a match in which the disparity in seam bowling resources proved critical. While Steven Croft had only Ryan McLaren (396) with more than 72 career first class wickets to his name, Gary Ballance could whistle up Ryan Sidebottom (745), Tim Bresnan (499) and Jack Brooks (364). But it was the least experienced of his quartet to whom the captain had most cause to be grateful, Ben Coad backing up his six first innings wickets with a couple more in the second dig to give him 31 Division One wickets at 14 this season, the best amongst England qualified bowlers by a distance. With England slated to play seven Test matches in two months from 6 July, don’t be surprised if “Highway” gets a gig for his country before his breakthrough season is done.

Ball Three – Lord’s square fails to promote flamboyant play

Flogging results out of Lord’s roads (they should just call the pitch the A41a) is hard enough with a full complement of overs, but when weather intervenes, it can be a thankless task. Once Lewis Gregory had notched a maiden century and Dean Elgar continued his extended warm-up for the Test series with second hundred of the season, Middlesex knew that a par score would surely be enough to make a draw the likely conclusion – and so it proved after their last four wickets added 110 runs. Though Somerset’s young skipper Tom Abell will be relieved to have batted almost three hours for a season’s best 71*, two of last season’s “three who could win it” going into 2016’s last day, are stuck in sixth and seventh places, both looking for the first win of the campaign.

Ball Four – Derbyshire’s chase unravels as rain saves Notts

Nottinghamshire’s charge towards Division One stalled with a draw against lowly Derbyshire at Trent Bridge. With four second innings wickets down and the lead just 51, Chris Read will be thankful for even for that, his own 74 not out critical in setting the visitors a target of 216 which proved just 26 too many when the rain came for the last time, Derbyshire big favourites with five wickets and eight overs in hand. Missing James Pattinson and Stuart Broad (36 wickets at 14.7 and 281 runs at 46.8 in 2017), Notts lacked firepower and Derbyshire can count themselves unfortunate not to have registered their first red ball win for two years.

Ball Five – Chris Nash’s seam battery menaces Worcestershire

With second place Kent sitting out this round of fixtures, third place Worcestershire had the chance to jump into first with a win over Sussex, a club in turmoil after Luke Wright’s shock resignation from the captaincy on the eve of the match. As can sometimes be the case, the change at the top, with Chris Nash taking over the reins, galvanised the side, his charges racking up 579-8d in good time, with Luke Wells adding 155 to the 258 he made when he last took guard at Hove. When the visitors cruised to 215 without loss in reply approaching lunch on Day Three, the draw looked likely, but the admirable Daryl Mitchell fell for 121, the Sussex seamers scented blood, and, just 30 overs later, Mitchell found himself back in the middle, following on, 267 behind. Despite missing experienced new ball man Steve Magoffin, Nash rotated his five medium pacers who, on a pitch now offering assistance, restricted Worcestershire’s highest second innings stand to just 79 runs and wrapped up the win early in the afternoon session on Day Four. As auditions go, it wasn’t a bad one from Chris Nash.

Ball Six – Durham yet to reach single figures with only moral victories to show in a most difficult season

Durham, whose place in Division One for this season was forfeited to current leaders Hampshire due to their financial problems, fought like cornered tigers to get themselves back into their match with Northamptonshire, only to lose off the penultimate ball, in the rain, with the visitors eight down. After conceding a first innings deficit of 172, a maiden century for Cameron Steel (who sounds more like a Pakistani team than an American born player) supported by 54 in nearly three hours from (who else?) Paul Collingwood, clawed Durham back into the game. But Colly’s opposite number, Alex Wakely, had other ideas and a captain’s knock of 84 laid the foundations for the last gasp win. Durham still seek that first victory of the season (and the points that will turn their total positive), but when it does eventually arrive, glasses will be raised well beyond the north east corner of England.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 30, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 29 May 2017

What Google Images returns for “Paul Collingwood MBE” – ’nuff said

Ball One – Kumar Sangakkara fails… to make a sixth century in six innings

Essex and Surrey started their match separated by one point at the top of Division One and finished it in identical shape, the draw not really helping either in a tight race for the pennant. Inevitably, Surrey were indebted to Kumar Sangakkara, who “failed” in his bid for six consecutive centuries, falling for 86 as the match meandered to a draw on the last afternoon. Having registered a round 200 in the first dig, the ageless Lankan scored 47% of Surrey’s runs off the bat, but will have to wait for that hundredth senior hundred – one suspects not for very long. Contributions were more spread amongst the Essex men, but teenager Dan Lawrence caught the eye again with a ton. He, like fellow teen Sam Curran who made 90 in Surrey’s first dig, can only learn from the honour of sharing a cricket field with an all-time great of the game. And I’m not just talking about cricket either.

Ball Two – Tom Abell needs to find a way to arrest Somerset’s poor form

Somerset’s heartbreaking final day of the 2016 County Championship appears to have cast a shadow over 2017, something that new young skipper, Tom Abell, needs to address. With just a draw in the credit column after four matches and 15 points from safety (and sixth place Middlesex have a game in hand), his team are venturing towards the kind of territory where you need snookers. It was another low scoring match at spin-friendly Taunton, the crucial passage of play coming with visitors Hampshire six down in their second innings with an advantage of just 105. Teenage spinner, Dom Bess, had five of those wickets but he, and Jack Leach who had bagged six first innings wickets, met stiff resistance from the late order, Gareth Berg, Kyle Abbott and Mason Crane all putting bat to ball, their shots lifting the lead to 258. The visitors’ spinners then got the job done, with four wickets for Liam Dawson and five for Crane, as the home side subsided to 168 all out. That Bess and Crane, whose combined age is about the same as Gareth Batty’s, an England spinner as recently as last winter, produced aggregate match figures of 57.5 – 6 – 207 – 15, will not have gone unnoticed by England selectors, but Somerset can be forgiven if their concerns are somewhat more parochial.

Ball Three – Steve Mullaney keeps Nottinghamshire on the road to Division One

Nottinghamshire continued the scorched earth approach to their season in Division Two, seeing off Gloucesterhire by an innings to notch a fourth win from five matches. Shorn of James Pattinson and Jake Ball due to international call-ups (but still able to field Stuart Broad, Harry Gurney and Samit Patel), skipper Chris Read was confident enough to enforce the follow-on and his bowlers duly delivered 20 wickets in 105 overs. Seen more these days as a batsman who bowls in white ball cricket, Steve Mullaney, still only 30 despite seeming to have been around for ages, picked up seven of those 20 with his medium pace wobblers. Having old pros to step up when the class men are away is just about the final piece in Notts’ promotion jigsaw puzzle – they’ll take some stopping now.

Ball Four – Nathan Lyon yet to roar, but seamers weave a spell for Worcestershire

And the man who might do that stopping is Daryl Mitchell, in the runs again with 161 and 78* as Worcestershire maintained their 100% record with a hard fought win over Northamptonshire at Wantage Road. Captain Joe Leach leads the seam attack, joined by Jack Shantry, Ed Barnard and teenager, Josh Tongue, with only the youngster paying more than 20 runs for his wickets this season. With Nathan Lyon yet to fire as a spin option, the September Trent Bridge showdown with leaders Notts looks like being a critical fixture. (Yes, they have to wait that long for their one and only match-up of the season – go figure…).

Ball Five – Kent join a top three in clear blue water after win at Tunbridge Wells

Kent interpolated themselves between leaders Notts and Worcestershire, matching their four wins this season with a comfortable victory over Sussex at Tunbridge Wells. Though many sides can make a claim to have batting through the order, not many sides can ever have matched Sam Northeast’s embarrassment of riches, his XI in this match boasting a lowest career average of 20 (Matt Coles). Not that batting can ever do much more than set up matches, 20 wickets being the key to turning draws into wins. Despite Sussex being 8-3 in their second innings (having conceded a lead of over 200 on first innings), the visitors battled hard, James Harris eventually wrapping up the resistance with match figures of 7-140 – Sussex all out 356, Kent’s victory margin 147. Effective though late order runs can be, Kent need to be ruthless in selecting bowlers who can take 20 wickets throughout the season, as three into two doesn’t go and one of Division Two’s pacesetters will not gain promotion come the falling leaves of Autumn.

Ball Six – Paul Collingwood – loser against Glamorgan, but winner in the grander scheme of things

Durham languish in bottom place in Division Two, without a win this season and on a ridiculous total of -24 points after the understandable penalty demotion last year and the knife-twistingly cruel 48 points deficit with which they started the season. With promotion a distant possibility (over 124 points distant as matters stand now) and without a win this season, Paul Collingwood’s Day Four lunch declaration (after losing overs to rain) setting Glamorgan 266 to win in a minimum 51 overs looked bold but necessary. What made it admirable, goddammit I’ll say it – noble, is the fact that he was on 92 at the time, having made 127 in the first dig in this, his birthday match. Chances for twin centuries don’t come round too often (especially not at 41 years of age) and he would have been Durham’s first such batsman, but the man with more reason than anyone to put personal achievement ahead of the match situation and season context, chose to make a game of it. That Glamorgan won a thriller in the last over of the day is to their credit, but when Colly eventually does hang up his boots, he won’t be buying himself many drinks if there are cricket fans in the bar.

 

 

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 23, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 22 May 2017

The administrators’ plan to maintain interest in the RLODC

Ball One – Nottinghamshire enjoy a rainy day at Northamptonshire

The early abandonment at Wantage Road handed Nottinghamshire the point they needed to join Worcestershire and Yorkshire in progressing from the North Group of the Royal London One Day Cup. It also took the wind out of the sails of Durham, Leicestershire and Lancashire, all of whom might have squeaked in as the last round of matches started. It’ll be scant consolation for him, but Lanky’s Jordan Clark ended the group stage with the best strike rate of batsman scoring over 250 runs (143), a sentiment that might be shared by rock bottom Warwickshire’s veteran spinner, Jeetan Patel, whose economy rate of 5.12 was the lowest among bowlers taking at least ten wickets.

Ball Two – Southern discomfort in the wet sends last week’s top three through

With only Essex dodging the weather in the South Group, their win over Kent consolidating their position at the top of the table to earn a semi-final slot, Somerset and Surrey went into the eliminators with their North group counterparts. Despite having had a thin time of it lately, Kent’s white ball specialist, Alex Blake, took the batting honours in the South Group with a strike rate of 158, with Jade Dernbach’s economy rate of 3.8 just edging out Toby Roland-Jones as best of the bowlers. After a four week break (nobody is quite sure why), the tournament resumes with the knockout stage on 13 June.

Ball Three – Porter rises to the challenge of carrying the Essex attack

Just twelve points cover the top four in Division One of the County Championship, with Essex capitalising on Alastair Cook’s availability to lead the ladder having been promoted last season. Ryan ten Doeschate’s men simply hammered Hampshire (reprieved relegation last year, but I’m going to the Rose Bowl on Saturday, so I can’t say anything unkind) in just over 200 overs cricket. Whilst runs don’t look a problem for Essex, the question for 2017 was always about who would take the 103 Championship wickets delivered by those retired old foxes, David Masters and Graham Napier. Well, Matthew Quinn and Jamie Porter showed plenty of promise last year and combined to take 10-124 in this match. The two 24 year-olds will learn much from Neil Wagner and (can it be possible to say this?) the veteran Ravi Bopara, and will get plenty of overs if they can stay fit.

Ball Four – Picture perfect centuries for Kumar Sangakkara

Weather and some obdurate batting saw the other three Division One matches drawn. At Lord’s, Surrey’s somewhat imbalanced attack (Tom Curran, Sam Curran, Mark “Hot” Footitt and Stuart Meaker look like four new ball specialists with nobody to do a Peter Siddle job as third seamer) proved a notch or two below Middlesex’s, with two more potential England men, Toby Roland-Jones and Tom Helm, a very classy opening pair. Ultimately, it didn’t matter though, because Kumar Sangakkara walked past his portrait in the Long Room and did not stride back until he had stroked twin centuries, the ageless master half a dozen notches above his fellow batsmen. Two more needed now for a century of centuries in First Class and List A cricket – standing ovations can be cheap these days, but his will be richly deserved when it arrives.

Ball Five – Joe Leach sucks the lifeblood out of Derbyshire’s batting

Worcestershire squeezed the only positive result this week in Division Two (basement dwellers, Durham and Sussex, started their match on Sunday) to go three for three, as they say stateside. Hapless Derbyshire (played three, lost three) were swept aside once openers Daryl Mitchell and Brett D’Oliviera had replied to the home side’s 275 with 243 runs of their own. Joe Leach added five second innings wickets to his four in the first to lead his team to a very comfortable innings win. Australia’s greatest ever finger spinner and ninth on their all-time wicket-taking list, Nathan Lyon, picked up a couple of scalps, but was barely needed (or noticed) at all.

Ball Six – Boers bore to a valiant draw

Hitherto unstoppable Nottinghamshire looked like making it four wins in a row when Chris Read invited Glamorgan to follow on, 361 behind with two whole days to play. But Division Two cricket proved itself tougher than some (including me) say, as the Welsh county (if not quite Welshmen) dug in for an old-fashioned stalemate. Skipper Jacques Rudolph set the tone with 14 made in an hour and a half, before fellow countrymen, Colin Ingram and Chris Cooke, batted out the last day (yes, the last day!) with the former racking up nearly ten hours at the crease for his 155 not out. Stuart Broad had figures of 34-10-55-0 in Glamorgan’s second innings, which may or may not please Andrew Strauss, As for Broad, he’s probably sick of the sight of South Africans already and the First Test doesn’t start until July!

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 15, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 15 May 2017

Friends? Just for this week. Please?

Ball One – Three out of three this week? The only one is Essex.

With one round of matches to come, Essex top the South Group, assured of a place in the knockout stage after three wins in the last five days. The last of that hat-trick was a convincing display at home to second place Somerset, the Westcountrymen seen off by 72 runs. It was a real team effort too, Tom Westley’s round 100 supported by Ravi Bopara’s 92* and (I kid you not) Alastair Cook’s 65 off 71 balls – the old chorister can rock out after all. Cue the “pace-off” men to apply the tourniquet in the middle overs, spinners Simon Harmer and Ashar Zaidi picking up 3-89 in 17.2 overs and wily old foxes, Bopara and Ryan ten Doeschate notching a couple of scalps, as they shared 10 overs for just 50 runs. It’s a bowling formula that can work in May – it’ll need to work on the harder pitches of June if Essex are to bring home a second one day knockout trophy since 1998.

Ball Two – Surrey’s Sanga smashes Hampshire

Somerset are assured of a place in the eliminator (teams finishing second and third in each table progress to a match to determine who will face the group winners away in the semi-finals), but the other South Group place lies between Surrey and Sussex. (But, bizarrely, Glamorgan who currently lie fourth having finished their matches, might go through on net run rate if Sussex lose and Surrey get hammered. Cricket wouldn’t want to make anything too simple now would it?) Both sides are away, Surrey at Bristol and Sussex at the Rose Bowl, but the Londoners will be feeling confident having disposed of Kent and Hampshire in their last two games. The latter victory was due in large part to the ageless Kumar Sangakkara who, having watched George Bailey brilliantly rescue his team’s innings from an abject 89-7 with a beautifully constructed 145*, calmly drove, cut and pulled his way to 124* before the rain came to South London to put the visitors out of their misery. At 39, it was a 96th century in List A / first class cricket for the master batsman. with only a run out looking likely as a dismissal. The Lankan doesn’t often get the accolades that Sachin or Brian or Ricky get, but he fully deserves his place in The Pantheon. One day, we’ll tell our grandchildren that, “Yes. I saw Sangakkara bat”.

Ball Three – DI Stevens: still criminally underrated?

James Vince has a decent shout for Performance of the Week in the South Group having made 178 off 138 balls as Hampshire piled up 332 – which they then failed to defend against Glamorgan, for whom Colin Ingram scored a century and Chris Cooke smashed 59* in the last eight overs. But he played a shocking shot at The Oval on Sunday, so he forfeits the award in favour of an old (very old) favourite of this column. Darren Stevens, at 41, chrisgayled 147 off 67 balls with 10 fours and 14 sixes smashed into the Welsh air on the ground where Garry Sobers eviscerated Malcolm Nash all those years ago. Unfortunately for the grizzled old stager, ten other batsman (and extras) couldn’t muster the remaining 210 runs off the other 233 legitimate deliveries and Kent lost. But few in attendance at Swansea on Sunday will be talking about Glamorgan’s win for long – they’ll be talking about the 35 sixes they saw, almost half of them off the bat of a man who is 19 months older than Andrew Flintoff and Stephen Harmison.

Ball Four – A bit of Daryl Mitchell leaves Durham’s innings in pieces

In the North Group, Worcestershire secured a knockout spot with a home win over Durham. Another of this column’s much-mentioned cricketers over the last few years, Daryl Mitchell, found a way to contribute to the cause again. After failing with the bat, he had to wait until the 24th over before Joe Leach tossed him the ball with Durham sitting pretty on 122-1, the required rate below a run a ball. The seventh bowler to be used, Mitchell held his nerve when centurion, Graham Clark took him for ten off two balls and bowled his next two overs for six runs and the wicket of Michael Richardson. With nine overs left and the required rate a more challenging, but gettable, 8.1, Mitchell took the ball again picking up the wicket of Ryan Pringle and gaining revenge with Clark’s, as his three overs went at a run a ball. Like Stevens, Mitchell can be damned with the descriptor “Bits And Pieces”, but you don’t have to be Jacques Kallis to do a job for your county.

Ball Five – David Willey isn’t getting enough action

Yorkshire join Worcestershire in progressing from the North Group, the necessary points secured in a resounding win over Northamptonshire. There was no way back for the home side after Gary Ballance, the season’s form batsman, had made 152* off 118 balls and then David Willey had dismissed the dangerous Ben Duckett and Rob Newton on his old stomping ground to leave his ex-employers 11-4 in the third over. Though he’s picking up wickets here and there, Willey has scored just 30 runs in senior cricket this season, batting down the order for Yorkshire (if at all). For a man in the prime of his career (at 27 years of age) with five centuries and 22 fifties on his CV, that’s a waste of talent. One can’t help thinking that he might have been better to stay at Wantage Road and form a frightening white ball opening partnership with Duckett, that might translate to T20Is, if not ODIs.

Ball Six – Jordan Clark turning into a Lancastrian superman

Performance of the Week in the North Group goes to a man who a few weeks ago was definitely a “bits and pieces” merchant but has blossomed into a genuine all-rounder, Lancashire’s Jordan Clark. At Old Trafford, arriving at the crease with his team on an awkward “stick or twist” score of 153-5 in 31 overs with not much batting to come, he made 79* off 58 balls, while Dane Vilas made a ton at the other end, the partnership unbroken and worth 160 runs. With ball in hand, he ripped through the Worcestershire middle order, his figures of 8-0-34-4 making the match safe for the home side with less than half the overs bowled. Lancashire are still in with a chance of squeezing through on Tuesday, but will need to beat Durham away and see wins for Northants and Yorkshire over Notts and Leicestershire respectively. So – hands across the Pennines?

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 8, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 8 May 2017

Ollie Hannon-Dalby after that over

Ball One – White Rose rises to top North Group

It was a week for Yorkshire’s wicketkeeper-batsmen, as Jonny Bairstow warmed up for his England gig understudying IPLing Jos Buttler with a devastating 174 in just 34 overs batting to make Durham’s 335 look paltry, before Aussie, Peter Handscomb, acclimatised himself further to English conditions with 140 in 35 overs batting, setting Derbyshire 350 which they chased valiantly before falling 16 short. The Tykes, despite missing lots of big names, especially among the bowlers, top the North Group.

Ball Two – Are the Pears ripe for success in the Royal London One Day Cup?

Worcestershire are second with a game in hand after beating the North Group leaders at New Road. No superstars in the Pears XI, just solid county pros well led by all-rounder Joe Leach (the Darren Stevens of the 2020s), who has created a team in his likeness. Worcestershire got off to a good start against one of the country’s in-form teams, with Daryl Mitchell and Tom Kohler-Cadmore racing to 135-0 at better than a run a ball, before a mid-innings collapse saw six wickets return just 95 runs in 16 overs. Cue Leach and big John Hastings to wallop 67 off six overs for the eighth wicket, getting their side up to 342. In the field, 21 year old seamer Ed Barnard got excellent support from batsmen-who-bowl, Brett D’Oliveira and that man Mitchell, the trio delivering a combined 30-0-162-4. Scoring at over 9 an over off the other bowlers proved, predictably, too much for Yorkshire and Worcestershire protected the only unbeaten record in the North Group.

Ball Three – Kent’s two tons outweighed by Somerset’s old pros

In the South Group, Somerset are unbeaten and top the table after seeing off a handy Kent side with a powerful display in the batting engine room. After Daniel Bell-Drummond had reminded us of his class and Alex Blake his power with contrasting centuries (Bell-Drummond’s off 113 balls, Blake’s from just 46), experienced pros, Peter Trego, Dean Elgar and James Hildreth ensured that one of them was at the crease as the scoreboard progressed from 19-2 to 294-5, leaving 59 to get in 8 overs. With boundary hitters like Roelof van der Merwe, Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton to come, the cidermen cruised over the line.

Ball Four – Briggs locks out Surrey on the coast

Sussex went second after crushing a Surrey side, whose batting, without the peerless Kumar Sangakkara, looks fragile. At Hove, the visitors’ seamers chipped away at a home side that never quite managed the big partnership that can be the difference between 300 and 350 – Gareth Batty almost certainly the happier of the two captains at the interval with a target of 301 to chase. But only Mark Stoneman and England Under-19 batsman, teenager Ollie Pope, could cross 50 and the game was done with nearly nine overs to be bowled. If figures of 9.1-0-29-4 by South African all-rounder David Wiese (a poor man’s Brian McMillan, but there’s no shame in that) stood out, England fans will be pleased to see Danny Briggs bowl a full quota for his 3-60. The tall left-arm ex-England spinner turned 26 last week and has plenty of time to come again in white ball cricket – if he plays enough.

Ball Five – A tie suits teams that finish neck and neck

The Americans say that a draw is “like kissing your sister” and have developed all kinds of artifices to avoid them in their sports, but cricket fans love a tie, don’t we? In the time honoured style, Adam Rossington, hitherto Northants’ hero with 63 off 44 balls including three fours in the over already, needed two off Joe Leach’s last ball of the match to win it. He misses, the ball squirms from wicketkeeper Ben Cox’s grasp, chaos ensues in the middle, and a bye is scrambled. Plenty of oohs, ahhs and laughs from the crowd (well, those not frozen) and the players shake hands with smiles rueful and otherwise. Superover? No thanks. One point each – the way God intended.

Ball Six – Ollie Hannon-Dalby gets into a fine mess with wides and a no ball, as Lancashire take the laurels

In the 2014 T20 Blast Final, Ollie Hannon-Dalby fronted up to bowl the crucial 19th over with Lancashire needing 29 for the trophy, but Andrew Flintoff on strike and breathing fire. The lanky seamer’s first four balls produced a wicket and gave up just three runs, so even when Flintoff launched the last two over the boundary, Warwickshire had enough in hand to win. No doubt, on Sunday, Hannon-Dalby might have recalled that over when standing at his mark ready to bowl the 45th over of the match, the man on strike one of his victims in that final, Lancashire’s captain Steven Croft. Things didn’t go so well this time – wd, 4, wd, 1, wd, 6, 1, 6, 6nb, 6. Lancashire went from 257-5 to 292-5, those 35 runs greater than their winning margin of 26. You win some and you lose some in cricket.

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 1, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 1 May 2017

Haseeb Hameed last week

Ball One – Surrey shafted by van der Merwe

Just when the County Championship narrative began to build with a logjam at the top of Division One and the likes of Gary Ballance and Darren Stevens adding personal stories to colour the picture, cricket shifts to its white ball format – of course it does. At least the Royal London One-Day Cup got off to a spectacular start with an early contender for innings of the season. After Ben Foakes’s 92 had lifted Surrey to a competitive 290, Somerset collapsed to 22-5, the swing of Jade Dernbach (remember him?) and Sam Curran too much for the experienced top order. Dean Elgar – a very classy operator these days – was joined by fellow Saffer, Roelof van der Merwe and the long reconstruction job began. While the Test man dug in, the all-rounder chanced his arm and the runs kept coming, but the wickets didn’t. Elgar departed with the stand worth 213, but van der Merwe only walked off when the job was done, his share 165. After what he had done to the Surrey bowlers, his first name seemed rather apposite.

Ball Two – Haseeb Hameed no longer frozen out of white ball cricket

In a moment as epochal as “Dylan goes electric”, Haseeb Hameed faced his first delivery in white ball cricket (from ex-teammate, Gavin Griffiths – please note future historians) and top scored for Lancashire with 88 at the unBaby-Boycottish strike rate of 87. It wasn’t enough, as solid contributions through the Leicestershire order got them over the line under the Old Trafford lights with four balls to spare. I’ll leave the final comment on this match to my brother, who spends some time in the Scandinavian winter, but still posted -“Night cricket in April was an cold as I have been for a long time”. Where do cricket’s administrators get their scheduling ideas (see Ball Six for more madness)?

Ball Three – Billy Godleman and Shiv Thakor remind us of their talents

Two names that were once touted (by some – possibly me) as the next big things in English cricket put together a stand of 168 to help Derbyshire overhaul Northamptonshire’s 307-7. Both were teenage proteges, but Billy Godleman and Shiv Thakor never quite delivered the outputs their youthful reputations once suggested. Godleman is now 28 and captain of Derbyshire – never an easy hand to play – but his 95 was the kind of innings that captains play. Thakor is (incredibly really) still only 23 and will revel in a match that saw him take 3-39 in nine overs and then make 130 at better than a run a ball. That might just kick start his season after a slow start – and a good season might kick start a career that is not a failure, but not the success (as yet) once expected. He has time on his side.

Ball Four – Liam Norwell has a whale of a time as Middlesex go under at Lord’s

Middlesex’s top five were swept aside by Liam Norwell, who bowled a nagging length, hitting the seam hard to extract movement from a Lord’s pitch that, for once, offered the lateral variations its look suggested. Props too to Gloucestershire skipper Michael Klinger who, in a format often seen as formulaic for captains, bowled his man through his ten overs from the Pavilion End, recognising that Norwell was in a good rhythm and that he could break the back of the home side’s batting in the first 20 overs. That said, he was missed when Toby Roland-Jones batted like the “Martin Bicknell all-rounder” (ie one with both averages hovering around 25 – 30) he is rapidly becoming, to get Middlesex up to 250 – an old school score in an old school match. In a curious parallel, Gloucestershire’s innings was also rescued by a late middle order stand, Benny Howell (in full er… cry) joining centurion Ian Cockbain to deliver a classy stand of 192, enough  which to see the visitors home with five balls to spare.

Ball Five – (The Shorter) Wisden is a lesser known delight

If the famous yellow book is too slabby and pricey for you, the Shorter Wisden 2017 is available as a e-book at £7.67 – leaving you considerably less short of cash, but definitely not short of reading. You get the heart and soul of the grand old almanack (though not that evocative fading ochreish stripe across the bookshelves) and it’s much easier to read on a commute or if your eyes, like mine, are deteriorating as fast as your waistline is expanding. Be warned! I had to wipe away a tear between London Bridge and Bank as I read Martin Crowe’s obituary and I raised a wry smile reading Ronnie Cockbain’s (Ian’s grandfather), recalling how he sledged me while carting my teenage outswingers all round Bootle CC then later sought me out in the bar to talk cricket for an hour to a mad keen kid. Though I have affectionately parodied the obits (here,  here and here), it’s pretty much impossible to do so these days – real cricketing lives are more funny, more eccentric and more bloody decent than anything that could be conjured by mere imagination.

Ball Six – May Day Monday a missed opportunity for a county game that needs all the help it can get

Parents will know the feeling – “Not another Bank Holiday so soon after Easter!” Perhaps a day at the cricket? Well, it’s an option if you live near Birmingham or Leeds, but nowhere else, the rest of the country denied professional cricket on May Day. Is it beyond the wit of the game to schedule nine matches across the country? Why not call it “A Festival of Cricket”, offer free entry for everyone and give all kids a free ticket to a T20 game later in the season? Have Radio Five Live reporters around the grounds going where the action dictates, interviewing players on the boundary, a live game or two on Sky and thereby generate some much needed publicity for the domestic game at the start of the white ball season? Yes there’s the weather, and no doubt other reasons why not – but if anyone listened to the naysayers on Broadhalfpenny Down back in the day, we wouldn’t have the game at all!

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | April 25, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 24 April 2017

Okay – that’s bad light

Ball One – Ian Bell arrests Warwickshire’s alarming slump

Five of Division One’s eight teams have “Played Three, Won One” in what is shaping up to be a tight race for the pennant after last year’s last day thriller. Surrey lead due to bonus points, having run into a Warwickshire side displaying more backbone that has hitherto been discernible this season. After Ian Westwood’s first dig of the season saw him make anchor a competitive total of 332, the home side looked on as Mark Stoneman and Kumar Sangakkara made centuries to secure a handy lead of 105 for Surrey. But Warwickshire were in no mood to capitulate and, building on the morale fostered by taking the last five wickets for 43 runs, Ian Bell’s men batted out 123 overs for the draw, the captain making 99, Tim Ambrose 85 and the always admirable Keith Barker adding 70*. It’s a start for Warwickshire, but Surrey will worry that without Mark Footitt’s cutting edge (he was hampered by injury and out of sorts on the fourth day), they lack the firepower required to turn draws into wins.

Ball Two – After Hameed comes Livingstone – dare I presume?

If last season saw the elevation of Haseeb Hameed to England’s colours from Lancashire’s ranks, might this season see the same honour awarded to Liam Livingstone? The 23 year-old Cumbrian has backed up his successful England Lions tour with a whirlwind start in the County Championship, playing not one, but two captain’s innings as he led his team to a sensational victory over Somerset. Last man out for 68 in the first innings, he rallied his troops to hold Somerset’s lead to 169, then put on 245 for the third wicket in the company of keeper-opener, Alex Davies (about whom we would all be talking if we were not all talking about Livingstone), before the seamers knocked over the visitors for 130 to send the Old Trafford members into (no doubt) grumpy delirium. While much has been made of the unimaginative signings of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dane Vilas and Ryan McLaren, eight of this Lancashire XI (Hameed, Davies, Luke Procter, Livingstone, Rob Jones, Jordan Clark, Steven Parry and Jimmy Anderson) are products of cricket in the North West of England – and that’s not bad by any standards.

Ball Three – Bad regulations stop play at Lord’s

Was anyone in danger of injury at Lord’s in the afternoon gloom of Day Four? Things aren’t quite so bad as they were in  the days when Dickie Bird would have the players back in the pavilion, feet up, reading the Sporting Life as soon as a cloud scudded across the sun, but umpires are still too cautious about the light for the tastes of many – including me. Some would argue that Middlesex’s James Franklin only has himself to blame, batting on to secure an utterly unassailable lead of 451 before declaring, and others will credit Essex’s Neil Wagner with batting over an hour at Number nine under some pressure. But really – unless the conditions are dangerous, can’t professionals just get on with the game until the scheduled close? Neither side won – but cricket probably lost.

Ball Four – Scales tipping back towards Gary Ballance?

Hampshire enforced the follow-on against Yorkshire, despite their bowlers having sent down nearly 80 overs, but James Vince would probably have settled for starting Day Four with a lead of 46 and seven wickets to get. He’d have been happier still when Test men, Peter Handscomb and Jonny Bairstow, were dismissed inside the first 20 overs, but Tim Bresnan is one of the most reliable Number 7s on the county circuit these days and he got his head down to grind out 37 in nearly three hours, while his skipper, Gary Ballance added a double ton to his first innings century, batting nearly 13 hours in the match. That’s over 500 Division One runs already for the new White Rose skipper after his shattering second casting out from the England ranks in Bangladesh six months ago. Quirky though his technique may be, the Zimbabwe born batsman has 32 hundreds and 40 fifties in 121 first class matches. A wise judge once told me not to sell Ballance futures just yet and, at 27, the age at which Alec Stewart had played three of his 133 Tests, Ballance may play again for England before he’s done.

Ball Five – The best attack in the country thriving in Division Two after Riki “Blood” Wessels stirs Nottinghamshire hearts

Nottinghamshire swept aside Sussex in two very one-sided days at Trent Bridge, making one wonder – not for the first time, nor the last – how they were relegated last season. Boasting one of the strongest XIs in the country for the third week in succession, they were in a bit of trouble at 88-5 before Riki Wessels launched a sustained four hour assault on the Sussex bowling that brought him a maiden double century which, with handy contributions from the bowlers who bat (James Pattinson, Stuart Broad and Luke Fletcher) was enough to post 447 all out. Pattinson and Broad then delivered their day job, reducing the visitors to 11-3 at the close – the Sussex hotel dining room must have been a little quiet that evening. No such problem after Day Two, as the diners headed home to the South coast in the evening sunshine, Fletcher, Jake Ball and Samit Patel joining in the home side’s fun as 17 wickets tumbled. Notts, to the surprise of few, are top of Division Two after three matches in which their international players have raised standards throughout the team.

Ball Six – Kent go three for three to match Notts at the top of Division Two

Kent are hanging on to Notts’ coat tails with a similar 100% record, putting away a Derbyshire side who have now lost their two opening fixtures. Inevitably, it was Darren Stevens who led the charge, the ageless all-rounder taking 6-47 with the ball, then making 90 having come to the crease with Kent 49-4 in their second innings, the lead an ostensibly fragile 149. But Kent’s lower order comprises five “Number 8s” (Wayne Parnell, Matt Coles, Adam Rouse, on-loan James Harris and dear old ex-England skipper, James Tredwell), so they were never really in trouble. Kent’s seamers then swarmed all over the visitors and they ran out easy winners by 169 runs. In three matches each this season, Kent have delivered five overs of spin and Notts 26 – if English players are to learn to bowl spin and to combat the turning ball, that isn’t enough. Still, there’ll be plenty of slow bowlers (not exactly spin bowlers though) firing white ball darts soon enough.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | April 18, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 17 April 2017

They had some tough paper rounds in Leicester in the late 80s

Ball One – Old pros provoke more prose about pros and cons of buying in overseas pros.

Though some members (certainly at Old Trafford) would prefer to see younger academy prospects given a go, old (very old) hands, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Kumar Sangakkara, continue to deal in cricket’s hardest currency – runs. In a innings that would be described as Chanderpaulesque even if he hadn’t played it, the man from Demerara batted in his own sweet way for 482 minutes to take the Red Rose from 67-5 up to 470 all out. Four hours of those hours, he spent in the company of Jordan Clark, whose maiden century may just herald the season in which the all-rounder finally delivers on his rich promise. After Surrey’s curiously passive first innings left them following on and in trouble, still 85 behind with both openers back in the hutch in the second dig, the veteran Lankan found a partner in Scott Borthwick, who emulated fellow Durham import Mark Stoneman’s feat of last week in scoring a first ton for his new county. The draw took Surrey to the top of Division One and left Lancashire fifth.

Ball Two – Middlesex dig in at the Rose Bowl.

Hampshire are the second of three teams with a win and and a draw after two matches, their attempt to secure a home victory over Middlesex frustrated by some late order resistance from the champions. Bowlers, Steven Finn, Ollie Rayner and Tim Murtagh all batted for over an hour and Toby Roland-Jones, slowly turning himself into a Martin Bicknell style all-rounder, was only eight minutes short of the mark, as a home attack, shorn of the cutting edge of the injured Fidel Edwards, could take only five wickets on the fourth day. Middlesex will be happy to have extended their long unbeaten run in the Champo with a ten points draw and Hampshire, after their controversial promotion, can be satisfied with second place in the table after two matches.

Ball Three – Coad red hot as Warwickshire press the batting panic button.

Middlesex’s predecessors as pennant fliers, Yorkshire, will be much happier after last week’s deflating defeat with an innings win over hapless Warwickshire. Ben “Highway” Coad, the latest in a seemingly inexhaustible supply of effective White Rose seamers, backed up his eight wickets first time out with two “Michelles” to give him 18 Division One wickets already and put his county into third place. He will be hard to drop when the likes of Liam Plunkett, Jack Brooks and Ryan Sidebottom are available for selection. Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel – handy batsmen, but their main job is bowling – scored 145 of Warwickshire’s 293 runs in the match, a testament to the home side’s batting travails, Ian Bell’s team rock bottom of the table having been dismissed for fewer than 180 runs three times in four completed innings this season.

Ball Four – Neil Wagner sends the whiff of napalm into Somerset noses.

Another man whose currency is neither positive body language, tempo shifting biffing nor “move the field” strokes is Alastair Cook, who made 52 out of 129 in the first dig and then 110 in a fourth innings chase of 255 to seal the win that sent Essex fourth in the early standings. If the ex-England captain is an old fashioned batsman, he’ll be happy to acknowledge the skills of team mate, Neil Wagner, the old fashioned Kiwi quick, who is nowhere near the pace of Shane Bond, but nobody has told him that, so he bangs it in and roughs up opponents, running in all day for his skipper. His second innings 6-49 comprised each of the last six Somerset wickets – showing the value of a bit of mongrel when it comes to knocking over a tail.

Ball Five – Crash, bang wallop by both sides sees Northants win in a photo finish

What cricket takes with one hand, it gives with the other, as events on the fourth day at Derby proved. After a morning of nonsense to set up the home side’s declaration, the game started again with Northants looking at a chase of 326 in 65 overs – tough, but fair. Alex Wakeley knew that he had nine decent cards to play, with Saffer slugger, Rory Kleinveldt listed to come in at nine, but in form off the back of a match-turning 86 last week. The visitors could have shut up shop at 124-4 with 202 to get in 38 overs, and again with 27 to get and seven down. But after Rob Newton’s well paced 98 up top and Richard Levi’s booming 99 off 79 balls to get the chase started again, it was that man Kleinveldt who hit the penultimate ball of the match for 6 and the win that took his team joint top of the Second Division. If Luis Reece and Billy Godleman have an asterisk against their morning stand of 333 for Derbyshire, that’s a price worth paying for a splendid, positive conclusion to a match that entered its last over with all four results possible.

Ball Six – DI Stevens builds the case for Kent

Just a point behind the early pacesetters, Kent’s season is off to a fine start, not least as a result of yet another ageing warhorse in peak form. Darren Stevens has an uncomplicated technique with bat and ball – “See ball, hit ball” and “You miss, I hit”, has been his MO for a few years now and, a few days short of his 41st birthday, that’s unlikely to change any time soon. In Kent’s two Championship matches, he has registered three half centuries and two fivefers, his latest the a nap hand comprising the top five in the Sussex order, as the home side fell well short of a fourth day rather distant target of 427. Stevens’ gnarly face and comfortable physique won’t feature on many of the ECB’s posters for its city based T20 tournament, but there’ll always be room for a crafty bugger like him as long as the game is played.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | April 11, 2017

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 11 April 2017

Stuart Broad and James Pattinson eye up Division Two batsmen

Ball One – Every county should start day one on a level playing field

So – eight teams in the top flight, ten teams in the lower: but 14 matches for each. Durham, having finished fourth in Division One last season, start this season in Division Two on -48 points with Leicestershire on -16 points, a penalty prompted by an offence committed in a university match. This just isn’t acceptable. The game is complicated enough – it’s one reason why we love it – but how is anyone, casual observer or avid fan. supposed to keep up with it all? Durham deserved some punishment (and, by God, did they get it) and Leicestershire’s disciplinary rap sheet is deeply unimpressive, but points should be won and lost on the field by scoring runs and taking wickets. You don’t have to employ the imagination of the Marquis de Sade to find sanctions that retain sporting competitions’ fundamental integrity. But, you know, county cricket eh? Never easy is it?

Ball Two – Mark Footitt has Warwickshire hopping mad

Moneybags Surrey sit atop of the nascent Division One table having first swept aside Warwickshire and then, eventually, pushed them off the field, the Midlanders making a much better fist of things having been invited to follow-on. While wor new kid in town, Mark Stoneman, got his feet under the table with 165, members at The Oval will be even more encouraged by Mark Footitt’s 6-14 first innings whirlwind, which included ex-England men, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Rikki Clarke all for ducks. That’s the kind of firepower that wins red ball matches – something that won’t be lost on England’s selectors, even if Footitt is older than Stuart Broad.

Ball Three – Kyle Abbott acquires the wicket-taking habit early for Hampshire

Yorkshire began life without Jason Gillespsie with defeat in yet another tremendous cricket match involving the White Rose men. After new captain, Gary Ballance had anchored the Tykes’ first innings with a splendid 120, seamer Ben Coad, stepped up from Second XI cricket to take 6-37 as the home side secured a first innings lead of 132. Hampshire hurtled back into the match with South African pacer, Kyle Abbott’s 7-41 giving his batsman a gettable, if distant, target of 320 for the win. In an old school chase, Hampshire’s batsmen got their heads down and wore down an attack missing the pace of Liam Plunkett and the craft of Jack Brooks. 101 overs later, the scoreboard showing the highest total of the match, with seven batsmen notching scores between 30* and 72, Hampshire had the job done and left new coach, Andrew Gale, facing an even trickier season than he might have expected.

Ball Four – Have Essex found a crock of gold in DW Lawrence?

While all the pre-match chatter focused on Haseeb Hameed and Jimmy Anderson, Lancashire’s visit to Chelmsford highlighted two more players who may well go through that awkward cap awarding ceremony before long. Alex Davies was attracting rave notices from fine judges last season before injury curtailed his progress in late May. Having taken five catches in Essex’s first innings, he switched pads and gloves and marched straight out to bat six hours for 140* – at 22 years of age taking responsibility to open and keep for the county of his birth. Dan Lawrence, even younger than Davies, then batted even longer, his undefeated seven hours vigil (ensuring that Jimmy Anderson went wicketless) enough to secure a very hard fought draw for the home side. For a teenager to start the final day of a Division One match with the prospect of batting all day for a draw and then deliver – well, that’s the kind of fortitude displayed a generation or so ago by another Essex man, Alastair Cook.

Ball Five – Swift defeat for Welshmen as Northants make a roaring start

Two days into the new season and Glamorgan were already licking their wounds after running into South African Rory Kleinveldt, who channeled the spirit of Lance Klusener in taking six wickets and blasting 86 from 58 balls in a match in which only one other batsman crossed 50. Opponents will be wary of Northamptonshire’s two African heavy hitters in a late middle order full of counter-attacking potential, with Kleinveldt joined by fellow Saffer salad dodger, Richard Levi. “On your toes for the run out lads” will be heard plenty of times with those two in partnership. This won’t be the last time they streamroller a side at Wantage Road.

Ball Six – Stuart Broad and James Pattinson turn Leicestershire’s hopes to ashes

Nottinghamshire soon followed Northants to the top of 2017’s first table, sweeping aside forlorn Leicestershire by ten wickets. Stuart Broad and James Pattinson (a notch or two – or ten – above Division Two standard) predictably took the lion’s share of the wickets, with 12 between them, but they also chipped in with useful runs. When Broad knows that he won’t get one up the hooter, he’s a dangerous customer and Pattinson’s batting is improving by the day, his last knock (80) proving vital to Victoria’s lifting of the Sheffield Shield. The “Rice and Hadlee de nos jours”? Maybe not, since they won’t play too many games together, but cricket fans should enjoy two high class operators playing domestic red ball cricket when we can.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | March 16, 2017

The case for Matt Renshaw

Steve Smith is halfway through the toughest gig in a captain’s career – a tour to India. That’s hardly korma cool at the best of times, but it’s vindaloo hot with the volatile Virat as his opposite number with R. Ashwin picking apart batsmen’s techniques like a keyhole surgeon and Ravindra Jadeja’s deja vu consistency gnawing at the concentration, hour after hour. Smith needs help – anyone would – so who does he turn to? Aw look mate, it’s David Warner.

His vice-captain and senior batsman has reached double figures in all four of his innings to date but has registered a top score of just 38 (in his first knock of the series) undone by impetuosity or flawed technique. There is no shame in that (well, maybe the premeditated swipes could be shelved) but that trot fails to inspire confidence in Warner’s ability to meet the very specific demands of subcontinental cricket. Like a kid nervous in the examinations hall, he’s answering the question he wants to see on the paper and not the one that’s actually been set. The game is different in the Northern Hemisphere, as his record of centuries (17 South, 1 North) suggests.

Though he’ll keep the opening slot and the vice-captain role short of injury or an attempted “Miandad on Lillee” response to Jadeja (though that too might be explained away as a “brain fade”), Warner hardly looks like the man to stand in for Smith or eventually succeed him in a team lacking experience. Nathan Lyon would be an option, but his place in the team is often in question and he seems just too nice a guy to narrow the eyes and chew the gum as an heir to Chappelli et al. So who?

Tall, precocious left-handed openers don’t have a bad record when it comes to leadership. Alastair Cook won 24 and lost 22 of his 59 Tests as captain – not great, but certainly not bad either. Graeme Smith won 53 and lost 29 of his 109 Tests as captain, the job thrust upon him at the age of 22 in (shall we say) less than ideal circumstances.

Matt Renshaw looks cut from the same bloodyminded mould as Cook and Smith. Unlikely to be distracted by IPL or other T20 franchise riches in the short to medium term, he looks perfectly suited to Test cricket. Having already banked a monumental innings of 184 vs Pakistan in his fourth Test, his credit is good for a while yet and, unlike his opening partner, you can almost see him learning on the job, as he plays each ball on its merits according to the pitch’s caprice, considers whether to seek to change the tempo of an innings and acts accordingly and smiles wryly as the wind-ups slide past a sanguine personality. There may be a bit of confirmation bias in play here, but when I look at the Indians, I see a respect for Renshaw that is absent when they bowl to Warner. That too is something the twenty year-old shares with the young Alastair Cook.

Though the game enjoys leaping up to bite on the bum anyone so blasé as to make long term predictions, I’m going to say that Renshaw, seven years younger than Steven Smith, is already a short-priced favourite to be the Baggy Greens’ next captain – so why not get him into the leadership group at the earliest opportunity? Even if the product of the Australian system (though, I must point out, holder of a British passport) is the most reticent Aussie in history, it’s impossible to believe that he’d offer much less than Warner, whose batting might be freed up in overseas Tests without the additional responsibility of vice-captaincy. That said, the self-possession evident in this teenage interview reminds me of one given by Adam Gilchrist at a similar age – and he did okay didn’t he?

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